Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary

On June 25, 1983, my wife and I attended the dinner to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Oxford’s Worcester College. The College’s Provost, Asa Briggs,[1] and Fellows were joined by many “Old Members” (what we in the U.S. call alumni) and other guests in a large marquee in the College’s garden.

We were served Ogen Melon with White Port, Sole Veronique and Lemon Sorbet for the first course; Roast Saddle of English Lamb Clamart for the second course; and Swan Eclairs, Diables a Cheval and Fresh Fruit Bowl for dessert. The wines were Muscadet Le Maitre Gourmet, Chateau de Barbe 1979 and Dow’s 1974 Reserve.

The toasts were to The Queen and the College with a Reply by the Provost.

The special guest of honor was Harold Macmillan, then the Chancellor of the University of Oxford and the former Prime Minister of the U.K.

Worcester’s claim to 700 years is somewhat strained. In 1283 the Benedictine Order founded Gloucester College, whose great work was educating the most promising men in the Order and sending them back to the monasteries as administrators or minor statesmen in their chapters.[2] In 1541, however, Gloucester College was one of the institutions that was subject to King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and thus ceased to exist, and its property reverted to the Crown.[3] The Crown in 1560 sold the property to a new institution, Gloucester Hall, which was organized and occupied the former College buildings from 1560 to 1714, but the Hall was not a college.[4] In 1714 Worcester College was founded on the site, and magnificent 18th century neo-classical buildings were built on the north and east sides of the main quad. They are still used today. Amazingly some of the medieval “cottages” of Gloucester College have survived on the south side of the main quad of today’s Worcester College and are still used as residences for students and dons.[5]

After the anniversary dinner, The Times of London had a photograph of Mr. Macmillan with a caption written by someone who knew the history. It stated, “Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of Oxford University, celebrating the seven hundredth anniversary of the founding of Gloucester College, the Benedictine college, some of whose buildings are now occupied by Worcester College.”[6]


[2] Worcester College at 1-6 (1976).

[3] Wikipedia, Dissolution of the Monasteries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries.

[4]  Worcester College at 7-14 (1976).

[5]  Id. at 15-21; Worcester College, The History of Worcester College, http://www.worc.ox.ac.uk/About%20Worcester/c_collegeHistory.php.

[6]  College calls, The Times (June 27, 1983).